Finding a concrete self-definition is often encouraged during the college experience, but not everyone will see such a dramatic change in themselves. graphic by Conner Maggio

Finding yourself can wait

It’s key to remain flexible and patient during college, despite the pressure to define yourself.

Whether it is from stereotypes in movies and shows or our own hopes and dreams, we associate college with a lot of different personal milestones. In these four years, we search for so many things. We try to find a job, love, purpose and, most importantly, ourselves. Many undergraduates fervently believe that college represents the one and only chance to define yourself as a unique individual. You don’t have to.

We are force-fed the idea that if you don’t have yourself figured out by the time you leave college, if not before, then you have no chance of success in “the real world.” The belief that college is the only time to find yourself is completely out of touch with the reality that people grow and change at different rates.

According to a longitudinal study from the U.S. Department of Education, about 33 percent of students switched majors within the first three years of college and a third of those students switched more than once. In addition, a survey of recent graduates done by CareerBuilder found that 47 percent of them were working in careers outside of their degree field. While some of these changes may have been outside the control of the students/graduates, they are both high enough percentages that it’s safe to assume that the others simply found a different calling than they originally predicted.

Sometimes we don’t know what we want to do until we experience it. So, be flexible. Remember that the first time you think you’ve figured out who you are might not be the last. There is no certainty as to when you will truly find yourself, and that is perfectly fine.

It can be hard to accept that you don’t know who you are right now, especially because now is the time when you’re put under the highest scrutiny. In college, a lot of people are constantly trying to figure out who you are from whatever details they can get.

Someone could judge you based on where you’re from, your major or even just how you act in class. Sometimes they’ll confront you with these labels and taunt that they know you better than you do. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a clearer definition of yourself to fire back, it feels easier to let it be.

Having to deal with anyone’s assumptions for long enough may make you feel like you just have to accept their labels; you assume it’s better to have a faulty definition of yourself than no definition at all. That’s wrong.
You have so much time ahead of you, even if it doesn’t seem like it now. So, who cares if you didn’t find yourself in college? Maybe you spent your time making lifelong bonds with some very important people. Or maybe you found that one skill that you really excel at and could even make a living from.

Self-actualization is not synonymous with success. You’ve got the rest of your life to figure out who you are or who you want to be, so never be afraid to put that line of thinking up on a shelf. For now, just do what makes you happy, because the rest will fall into place eventually.

Be patient with yourself. Remember that you could change every week and still be you. We are only ever who we are in this exact moment. So, don’t worry about it. You’re going to be amazing.

Post Author: Brian Kwiecinski